November 5, 2013 at 11:15am

Memorial for John Harris Baird ’40

John Harris Baird, 94, of Decatur died Saturday, June 8, at St. Mary's Hospital.

John was born August 1, 1918, on a farm in Shelby County to Grace Garman Baird and DeForest E. Baird. He attended grade school in a one-room school and then went on to Bethany High School where he was elected president of his senior class and graduated in 1936. He attended Blackburn College for one year and then Millikin University where he majored in business and was a member of SAE fraternity. He graduated from Millikin in 1940 and then went to work for the Millikin Trust Company. He was drafted into the Army in March of 1941.

It was during his college years that he met his future wife, Frances Marie Neumeyer, when they both sang in the choir at First Presbyterian Church. On June 18, 1942, they were married at the Methodist Church in Mt. Pulaski with her father, Rev. Frank Neumeyer, officiating. They then moved to California where John was stationed at Camp Roberts near Paso Robles. Their first two children were born in California.

When the war ended, the family returned to Decatur, and John returned to his job at the Millikin Trust Company which later merged with the Millikin National Bank. During his career with the trust company and bank, his positions included farm manager, director, trust officer, and vice president. He retired in 1981. John was a past president of the Trust Division of the Illinois Banker's Association. He was also a past president of the Decatur Noon Lions Club which he joined in 1952.

Back in Decatur after the war, John and Frances also returned to First Presbyterian Church where they continued to sing in the choir for over sixty years. They both loved singing. John was known for his deep bass voice which was called "the Baird bottom" by other choir members because of the very low notes he could hit. John was a member of First Presbyterian for almost seventy years. He also served the church as an elder and as a Cub Scout leader.

John loved fishing, wood working, and fixing things, so he would often be called on by family members who needed help with home projects. He also loved gardening, especially after retirement when they moved to Western Drive where he had a big yard and a very big garden. After Frances died, he became interested in cooking. Jams, cookies, and caramel corn were his specialties, so there was always something good to eat when friends and family stopped by for a visit or to play Kings in the Corner or Rummikub.

Both John and Frances loved camping when their children were growing up, and they took many trips with a pop up camper. Later in life they purchased a motor home for trips. After John's retirement, they took many trips in the U.S. and abroad. For a number of years, they spent the winter months in Florida. Every summer since 1975, the Baird clan has gathered for what is still called "family camping" even though the family now stays in cabins. John loved these family times, especially singing around the campfire with children, grandchildren, and eventually great grandchildren.

John has spent most of this last year at Tanglewood Village, a place where he was very happy and where he always said he wanted to spend all the rest of his days. The last day of his life, his son Carl took him to visit the Baird farm where he was born.

John is survived by the following family members: son John H. Baird Jr. and his wife Jan of Decatur and their children Mary Ellen Price (husband Chris) and Carla Shanley (husband Mike); son Carl E. Baird and his wife Nellie of Arlington WA and their children Rob Penner, Tom Penner (wife Anna), and Lisa Hassain; daughter Ruth Francis and her husband Ted of Burlington IA and their children Allison Francis and Craig Francis; daughter-in-law Karen Baird of Decatur and her children Matthew Baird and Kathleen Baird; three great grandchildren, Celeste and Drake Price and Keira Shanley and three step great grandchildren, Justine Penner, Chase Hassain and Cody Hassain.

He is also survived by his brother Roger Baird (wife Audrey) and sister Mary Grace Walker, as well as many beloved nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be held at First Presbyterian Church on Saturday, June 29, at 11 a.m. The family will receive friends after the service. John has given his body to medical science. Brintlinger and Earl Funeral Home, Decatur, is assisting the family with arrangements.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to First Presbyterian Church or Millikin University. Condolences may be left to the family at Obituary written by family members. Online guest book at

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